Sunday, November 05, 2006


the joy of reading

I feel lucky and thank god that I don’t get the writing bug. Lucky because I’ll never be good at it and thank god because I think it would be a torture. I feel that being a writer or journalist or - god forbid - a book reviewer would be the worst job in the world (well, may be after lawyers and accountants which as everybody knows are the pits).

I never understand why some people , even a complete nobody feels the urge to write and must write. Writing for them become like cocaine to drug addicts…they need their fix everyday and this can come at odd hours . Yet, I‘ve never seen or heard anyone that are mad about cars say , seriously think about making cars themselves or those that are mad about durian want to become durian farmers (though a few do) .

All form of arts manifest some kind of addictions to their practitioners, but seems only writing among all the art disciplines that has the strongest addictive trait. You don’t see too many wannabe painters that claim that they get the urge to doodle at odd hours or dancers need to dance when they‘re in bed for example. But with writing any wannabe author will tell you that they sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and start scribbling something when they become ‘inspired’.

Recently orhan pamuk gave a very interesting insight in the guardian newspaper why he needed to write and write everyday and if he doesn’t he’ll become physically sick and deeply unhappy. and today there is another excellent take on the same subject and the pleasure of reading by the famous American author paul auster. Though I don’t understand about the writing bug, I can well understand the joy of reading for I read purely for pleasure. And I am always on the look out for a good book.

But here’s the problem. Although all of us love stories, no two of us agree on what a ‘good’ story is. Not that this is surprising as ‘goodness’ is subjective unlike mathematical truth for example which is absolute. And although like everything else expertise and experience can give you a better judgement of what can be considered good or bad , we still can never come to full agreement on what is good or bad. Furious discussions and disagreements whenever lit prizes are announced is one clear example of difficulty of deciding what a good book is even among experts. And this is not restricted to just books of course.

Which nicely bring me to another favorite topic, Paintings and on the same theme of what good or bad is. Today I read a hilarious rant in the observer about Jackson pollock’s painting number 5, 1948 that was sold for $140 million US dollars by David Geffen , an interesting guy (as this article shows) who gave us some of the best Californian rockers in the seventies –Crosby Still and Nash, Neil Young, Jackson Brown , Linda Ronstadt to some unknown mexican- the highest record for paintings now .

An excerpt from this article…what a gem…

Pollock's widow report that the couple would dream up names for the works once they were finished; Pollock wasn't painting anything in particular, even in abstract. He was just dripping paint like a leaky tap while listening to jazz. Yet surely great art requires great thought. It rings true when the widow says of him: 'He was missing about half the components of a mature human being.' A monkey could do a passable Pollock, but would spill a lot of Dulux before copying a Holbein.

Pollock has never been free from controversy from the beginning and as this amusing article showed , even now his achievement and those who have the means to buy them are viewed not without a hint of envy and jealously. And like the author of this article I also distinctly remember that the first time I heard of him was that very long time ago in my student days in Tasmania (of all places) when there was a great outcry when malcom frazer who was then the aussie PM bought a Pollock for the aussie art gallery for around 1.3 million aussie dollars (seems like peanuts now) and I had to thank this scandal for introducing me to the great world of abstract expressionism.

Art and reading are essentially a lonely pursuit and to be savored in isolation privately and incidently, there is also a very good article on why traveling alone can be very rewarding (barring a few pitfalls) and in fact my preferred way of looking at the world at large which I’ll be doing again next week as I’ll be going to Beijing and then directly to manila and Davao in Mindanao, Philippines. That is a mess actually as originally I thought of taking my way back from Beijing by train via shanghai to kunming then fly out to KL …then go to the Philippines and not only in the relatively safe city of davao but to the more interesting muslim areas of maranao people in merawi but that’ll have to be for next year may be…

good job we don't all have the writing bug, greenbottle. else everyone would be writing and no-one would be reading.

interesting that we were both taken by the auster article though.
Bib and bottle,

For people who don't have the writing bug you guys sure write a lot :)
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